The Peculiar Side of Sports: Why is a Rouge Called a Rouge?


Editor’s Note:  In The Peculiar Side of Sports, I aim to answer some of sport’s most interesting peculiarities and burning questions.  If you have any questions you would like answered simply send email to

The CFL is peculiar in and of itself, especially for someone who hasn’t watched much of the Canadian brand of football with any regularity.  One of the most often criticized and misunderstood aspects of the game is the purpose of the single point.  And in an attempt to further confuse their fans, the CFL refers to this already unique play with a word that isn’t even English.

The Peculiar Side of Sports: Why is a Rouge Called a Rouge?

The single point is referred to as a “Rouge”.  Rouge, as any Canadian with elementary level French will already know, translates to “red”. So how is it that the CFL and its fans came to identify this single point with that particular colour?  Glad you asked.

There isn’t a definitive answer, though there are several theories that seem plausible.  A single point is scored when a ball travels through the endzone from a punt or kick-off, or when a receiving player maintains possession and “kneels” in the endzone. The  kicking team gains a point, thereby putting the receiving team into a one-point deficit.  And as many of us know, when you are in deficit you are “in the red”.  Of the several possible theories as to the origins of the rouge, this, for me, is least likely.

Another theory suggests that the rouge represents the red flags that were originally thrown when a team scored a point.  I suppose this isn’t far-fetched.

The third, and the most likely in my opinion, is that the rouge has its roots in 18th Century England.  In early forms of field hockey, a rouge is scored when a ball makes contact with a player and lands in the equivalent of an end zone.

So while we are not 100% sure as to why a rouge is a rouge, it is one of the many things that makes the CFL very unique.  This rule has been discussed ad nauseam as many question its legitimacy.  I think it’s a part of the league’s history, and I’m all for maintaining traditions.



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